I’ve been thinking a lot lately about borders and passports and documents.
The words of the late, great ‘Doctor’ Remmy Ongala fill my thoughts and best express them—the idyllic and unrealistic image of a world without passports, border controls and immigration officials.
The Cuban and I live in a world which is very much predominated by worry and fear of the unthinkable. We live in a country which is not our own. And, we live in a world which is focused on pieces of paper and an unimaginable pile of documents and endless applications. We are dependent upon one another for those documents which allow us to not only live in a specific country, but to continue our life together. The hard truth and knowledge that at the whim of any one bureaucrat we may be forced to abandon that life together fills our hearts and minds with an unspeakable fear.
Our crime? Falling in love with an individual from a country which our respective governments consider personae non grata.
I recently read an article about the horror faced by couples in the US in which one partner is either detained awaiting deportation or has already been deported. That is, families—real, loving families—have been ripped apart because of the decisions of others with only the specifics on a bundle of paperwork to guide them. it is unfair, unjust and unconscionable, particularly in a society which prides itself on ‘family values’.
Much of the discussion surrounding immigration reform in the US removes the context and nuances faced by individual couples. This has certainly been our experience both within and beyond the borders of our own respective countries. Yet, those specific details are what make individual cases so incredibly real and rich. And, heartbreaking. Most decisions are based on an inventory of checked boxes. When neither box applies, decisions are taken with no thought or closer examination of the individuals affected. Rarely do the consequences of those decisions warrant much attention or reflection, and therein lies the tragedy.
As The Cuban and I move through the incredibly frustrating and murky bureaucratic maze in our attempt to continue our life together, we still hope for and dream of a world in which passports, borders and immigration officers retain a bit of human compassion. We all inhabit one world.